We got 2 more inches of snow overnight bringing our on the ground grand total to about 10 inches now. According to our thermometer on our side porch we hit an overnight low of 4 degrees, but tonight it’s supposedly going to be only 30 with more snow. Thirty degrees seems like a dream compared to what we’ve been having, but then on Monday we’re right back to bitter cold with a predicted low of -5.
I must admit, this bitter cold has been really testing my resolve, almost like it was sent to do just that. Even though it’s the extreme opposite weather-wise and we still do have electricity (although it flickers at times when the wind starts hitting the 30 MPH mark..) I keep being reminded of The Derecho 2012 when we lost electricity for 11 days and during that time we were assaulted by a heat wave with temperatures reaching the mid 90’s..which is HOT for our neck o’ the woods! But it produces the same kind of feeling, that of being involved in a prolonged abnormal situation forcing us to enact new steps and stratagems to cope with it.
Our little cottage was originally built as a “dawdi haus” (meaning “grandparent’s house” and I use the Amish term because that is the only culture that has such a thing, that I am aware of at least..) The farmer who lives behind us on his black angus cattle farm used to own our land back in the 70’s and built this cottage for his mother to live in, after she passed away he sold it and the land it was on. Now we live here. It has thick wooden walls, but they are not insulated. We have one of those super deep artisan mountain wells and we replaced the well pump a couple of years ago and the water comes into the house through plastic piping from underneath the house, the underneath of the house is really nothing more than a crawlspace and so our pipes, if not dripped, easily freeze at temperatures below 20 degrees…so, as you might have guessed, we been having to have the faucet drip nearly continuously because we haven’t had a day over 20 degrees in nearly a week!
There is also the care of the livestock. We have our goats on a bi-yearly breeding cycle, they only have kids every other year, they had kids in 2012 so they will be bred again in the fall of 2014. Goats, if they are milked regularly, which means twice a day with not more than 16 hours between milkings (I have my goats on a 10/14 schedule, which means I milk them at around 8AM and then 10 hours later at around 6PM, and then 14 hours later at 8AM the next day..), will easily produce milk for 3 years from one kidding. But the key is you have to milk them always and everyday, you cannot take a vacation just because the temperature is hovering around zero degrees. So, everyday, between milking the goats and hauling hay bales to feed them fresh hay and hauling them fresh hot water and feeding the chickens and collecting eggs and hauling them fresh hot water, I have been spending about 1 1/2 hours a day in this frigid freaking cold weather!
This is what I mean when I say that my resolve is being tested. Even though I may be freezing my ass off, I can not stop milking…raw milk sales are illegal in West Virginia so there is no other way for me to procure this precious resource for my children, I must milk! There is no way around it or way to do without it. My children have not gotten sick in over a year (I have not been sick in over 4 years) and I personally believe that it has everything to do with the raw milk which is so good for the body, especially the immune system…it is what keeps us super healthy and is, by far, the most precious resource that our homestead produces.
When you milk you do not move, other than your hands, but the rest of your body just sits there making it very easy to get very cold in a very short amount of time, especially when temperatures are so frigid. Whenever I milk in temperatures that are below 20 degrees, I wear 3 layers of clothing. My base layer for both top and bottom is Omni-wool 20% merino wool long underwear, over that I wear jean leggings and then my 96% wool pants (thrift store find) on top of all of that. For the top portion of my body I wear a cashmere/wool/angora blend sweater (thrift store find) over my base layer of Omni-wool and then my 80% goose down insulated winter coat. I have a wool hat that I wear and then my coat hood over that. For socks I have two layers, a close fitting cotton sock followed by my heavy duty 85% merino wool socks, my snow boots are waterproof leather with 200 gram thinsulate insulation (which isn’t much but I got ’em for 8 bucks in practically brand new condition from the thrift store, beggars can’t be choosers lol). For gloves I have a pair of form fitting wool gloves without fingers so that I can milk comfortably, one hand holds that nice warm teat and milks while the other hand holds the jar of nice warm milk that I am milking into, so fortunately my hands never really get super cold….there is a silver lining to every cloud I suppose 😉
We use the deep bedding method for out goats, which means that we let their bedding pile up in winter so that it is anywheres between 18 inches and 24 inches thick, essentially creating a giant compost pile that they live on top of…stick a thermometer in there and you will get a reading of close to 120 degrees in the center of the pile, this is from all the microbial activity and the heat that it puts off helps to keep my goats very toasty warm in their unheated goat shed. All of our chickens are breeds that deal with the cold quite well, they don’t seem fazed in the least by this extreme cold and their egg production even went up to a dozen eggs a day now that the light is starting to noticeably increase.
One thing that I do not like is that the extreme cold seems to awaken some type of primal eating drive within me, I come back from being outdoors for an extended time and I am just SO HUNGRY! It’s unbelievable the amount of food that I wish to consume because of this cold and it makes me want carbohydrates of all things! lol Steaming hot bowls of beef stew with thick slices of warm homemade bread smothered in butter! Or nice hot bowls of oatmeal or biscuits and sausage gravy with eggs and bacon and it’s just unreal to me how hungry I have been.
The house has been most warm, we heat with a combo of kerosene heaters and wood and a few electric heaters scattered about, we’ve managed to keep it at a roasty toasty 72 degrees with little to minimal effort on our part, so fortunately that has not been a problem at all. Just one more week of this and then January will be over… I don’t mention nearly often enough how much I hate January but I HATE January!..I do, I really really do. We almost always inevitably get a warm up in February, so I just keep looking forward to that…and at this point even a few days of temps in the 40’s would seem like heaven! lol